Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Scheide, John Hinsdale, 1875-1942
John Hinsdale Scheide Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1007-1873 (mostly 1200-1650)
253 boxes and 229 items
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scahsvm): Boxes 7-8; 13-20; 22-162; 164-263; 153B; 153A; 152A; 152B


Consists of 7,935 Western European documents and other manuscript materials collected by William T. Scheide (1847-1907) and his son, American businessman John Hinsdale Scheide (Princeton Class of 1896).

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 7,935 Western European documents and other manuscript materials collected by William T. Scheide (1847-1907) and his son John Hinsdale Scheide (Princeton Class of 1896). More than half of the collection is comprised of notarial documents (contracts, wills, deeds, etc.) from Fabriano, Vicenza, Bergamo, Tirano, Caravaggio, and other northern Italian towns in the period 1200-1650. Also includes a substantial number of medieval documents from England and France; 16th-19th century family papers from France; 14th -19th century papal bulls; a few documents from the Low Countries; and miscellaneous documents from Germany, Ireland, Malta, Russia, Spain, and Wales. The collection provides source material for the localized study of Italian and French social, economic, legal, and institutional history during the late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and early modern period.

More than half of the 7,935 items in the Scheide collection are Italian notarial documents from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the bulk of them dating from about 1200 to 1650. The documents include wills, dowers, pious donations to churches, leases, business contracts, and other legal documents. They tend to document particular towns, including 500 or more documents each for Vicenza and Fabriano; 100-200 each for Bergamo, Tirano, and Caravaggio; and scattered documents for Asti, Beneventum, Ferrara, Florence, Venice, Verona, and many other northern Italian towns. Though the inventory gives the names of particular towns where the notaries practiced their trade, the documents themselves may concern the surroundingcontadoor other places. The notarial documents include: (1) the original minutes for legal documents of a contractual nature, such as land conveyances, prepared by the notaries, filed archivally for future reference by the notary, and in most cases recorded in notarial protocols or registers; (2) engrossed personal copies made by notaries for individuals and bearing later endorsements; and (3) non-contractual documents such as estate inventories and court judgments.

Perhaps the most important part of the Scheide collection is a substantial part of the archives of an Italian monastery. The Benedictine (later Silvestrine) abbey of S. Vittore delle Chiuse was founded in the 10th century on the right bank of the River Sentito, in the hills overlooking Castel Petroso (now Pierosara), near the town of Fabriano in the March of Ancona. Dating from 1007 until the beginning of the 15th century, the hundreds of S. Vittore documents now in the Scheide collection had been taken for safekeeping after 1810 by the monk Benedetto Rosei di Fabriano, whose heirs sold the material to Leo S. Olschki, who in turn sold them to William T. Scheide. The S. Vittore archives include notarial documents retained by the monastery.

French materials account for almost 2,500 items in the Scheide collection, chiefly the papers of the D'Olive family of Toulouse, whose noble lineage may be traced back to the mid-15th century. The papers were kept by members of the family for centuries and organized in the latter half of the 18th century by Joseph-Denis d'Olive (d. 1783), who served as President of the Chambre des Requêtes of the Parlement of Toulouse. In defense of its landed wealth and seigniorial rights, chiefly in the villages and manors of Esperce as well as Brugiéres and others, the D'Olive family was frequently involved in litigation and retained records of at least 26 court cases.

Other French archival materials were acquired in part from the Slade Collection along with D'Olive Family Papers, including several boxes of French documents (boxes 156-164) partially identified in Seymour De Ricci,Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada(vol. 2, pp. 1822-37) and the 1938 Parke-Bernet auction catalog's description of the Slade collection (pp. 48-50). Of particular interest in the boxes are four notarial registers kept between 1382 and 1486 by members of the Borelli family and other notaries in the small southern French town of Montech, Dèpartment de Tarn-et-Garonne, northwest of Toulouse. Also of great research value are an account roll (1476) kept in Castres, Dèpartment de Tarn-et-Garonne, by Pierre Bayard, treasurer and counselor to Charles VIII (1483-98); a 14-pagecensieror roll of quit-rents (1517) for the town of Brugiéres, near Castres; and a 78-pagerentieror rent roll (1562-69) for the manor of Quemper-Guèzennec, a village in the Dèpartment des Cotes-du-Nord, Brittany. Found in the same boxes as the D'Olive Family Papers is a smaller group of notarial documents from the village of Pont Farcy pertaining to Burguet family and the area of Avranches in Normandy, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Scheide Collection also includes a series of documents (boxes 89-97) that were originally collected around 1887 by a certain Dr. Vaunaire of Gannat, France; these materials pertain to Roches, Villars, Percenat, Tronget, and other small French towns in the Dèpartment d'Allier. Boxes 207 and 208 contain 47 documents that were originally part of the Nicolay family archives, dated 1428 to 1731. There are 11 documents in Box 207 (starting with #7017) and 36 in Box 208. (#7092 in Box 208 lacks a date; and although it was filed between 1725 and 1731, it actually belongs in the year 1614.) Although quite diverse, the contents all share a material feature: a row of small holes along the top edge (some with bits of thread remaining), suggesting they were bound at some point. Where a document had a seal, it has generally been cut off.

Finally, John Hinsdale Scheide also included in the collection various small groups of English documents, many from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), as well as French, Italian, Flemish, and other items from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.


The basic arrangement and description of the collection was the work of Chalfant Robinson (1871-1946), a professor of Classics and Curator of Medieval History (or Curator of Medieval Manuscripts). The Library had originally planned to calendar the collection after each item had been fully identified and arranged by place (diocese) and date, but the plans were not completed by the time of Robinson's death. Instead, large parts of the collection were largely kept as received in "letter boxes" organized by century and country in order to help illustrate the history of European script and facilitate paleographical study; this scheme sometimes resulted in discrete series of items retaining the order in which the documents were found when purchased. Robinson provided descriptions for approximately 224 of the 263 boxes of the documents. The remaining documents were described by successive manuscript curators of Princeton, including Jean F. Preston and Don C. Skemer.

The Fabriano Documents were described by J. Melvin Edelstein (b. 1924), when he was at John Hopkins University. Fifteen documents from this collection, including a Fabriano document from 999, had been retained by The Scheide Library before the collection was donated and are now described in the Princeton University Library online catalog. The Lawrence Slade Collection (boxes 165-194) was described in 1992-1993 by Leslie Tuttle, a graduate student in the History Department.

During 2002-2003, Sharon Strulowitz integrated the various sources of descriptive information about the documents in the collection into a Microsoft Access database. A printout from that database, listing the documents by country (then place name and date), constitutes thepresent finding aid.

Researchers will note that a small number of items have been omitted from this listing. These items, primarily textual material, are described in the catalog of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the Princeton University Library. For further questions on these materials please consult Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts.

Collection Creator Biography:

Scheide, John Hinsdale, 1875-1942

John Hinsdale Scheide (Princeton Class of 1896) was an American businessman and collector.

Collection History


The John Hinsdale Scheide Collection was amassed in the years 1890-1941 by William T. Scheide (1847-1907), who had been inspired to collect by his tour of Italy in 1889, and later by his son John Hinsdale Scheide (1875-1942), Princeton Class of 1896. William acquired most of the contents of boxes 1-155, focusing on Italian documents though not to the exclusion of representative examples from England and France; it would appear that almost all of the Italian material was purchased from the Florentine publisher and antiquarian book dealer Leo S. Olschki. John, however, was far more interested in French and English documents, and bought a great deal from the London dealer Maggs Bros. and at auction. The principal part was acquired at the 8 November 1938 auction (sale no. 61) at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. The Slade Collection was described at the time as "about 2500 Chirographical Specimens from the XIIth to XIXth Century" from the collection of Lawrence Slade, who was the son-in-law of the eminent collector Robert Hoe, and had purchased most of them from the Parisian dealer Charavay in the 1920s. The bulk of these documents form the extensive papers of the noble D'Olive family of Toulouse from the 16th century until the French Revolution.

The collection was originally housed at the Scheide family home in Titusville, Pennsylvania. A formal deposit agreement was made in 1938, and the documents were shipped to Princeton in stages and put on deposit at the Treasure Book Room of the Moses Taylor Pyne Library. In 1939 a brief inventory was made of boxes 1-155. An additional 152 documents in boxes 251-263 were deposited in 1943 by John's son, William H. Scheide, Princeton Class of 1936. In 1945 the latter indicated the family's intention to donate the Scheide documents to the Library, but formal donation was not made by him until 1947. The John Hinsdale Scheide Collection was given the accession number AM 13016 on 16 January 1948.


No appraisal action taken.

Processing Information

Inventory produced from spreadsheet at using automated processes.

Readers are advised that the data in this finding aid and underlying spreadsheet contains corrupt data due to character constraints in the original database. This information cannot be recovered. Any data possibly truncated as a result has been indicated with an ellipsis ("[...]").

During 2022, restrictions on this collection were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

John Hinsdale Scheide Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scahsvm): Boxes 7-8; 13-20; 22-162; 164-263; 153B; 153A; 152A; 152B

Find More

Other Finding Aids

The Scheide Documents Database consists of 7323 records, each containing seven fields or elements: item number, date, country, place name, type, note and expanded note. The item number is the unique key of each record: it is a hybrid of the box number and document number. "74-2003" means, for example, Box 74 and Document 2003. The date is the year date of the document, often an approximation due to the differences in calendar years. Country is based on the modern location of the place name (source or place of origination) of the document, except that "Papacy" is used as the "country" for all papal documents, regardless of source. The majority of the documents are from France, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The place name is given, in most cases, as the modern form of the village, town, or city from where the document originated. Type indicates the form or genre of the document, such as legal document, marriage certificate, deed, letter, and will. Additional descriptive information is provided in the note field, which, if necessary, spills over into the expanded note. The following printout of the database records has been arranged first by country, then by place name and date, in order to facilitate research about specific geographical places:

Subject Terms:
Bulls, Papal -- 19th century.
Legal documents -- England -- Medieval period, 1066-1485.
Legal documents -- France -- Medieval period, 987-1515.
Legal documents -- Italy, Northern -- 1268-1559.
Genre Terms:
Bergamo (Italy) -- History -- Sources.
Caravaggio (Italy) -- History -- Sources.
England -- Economic conditions -- 1066-1485.
England -- Social conditions -- 1066-1485.
Fabriano (Italy) -- History -- Sources.
France -- Economic conditions -- Medieval period, 987-1515.
France -- Social conditions -- Medieval period, 987-1515.
Italy -- Economic conditions -- 1268-1559.
Italy -- Social conditions -- 1268-1559.
Tirano (Italy) -- History -- Sources.
Vicenza (Italy) -- History -- Sources.